LONG-SERVING Fifa and Caf panel referee Alfred Zindove has blown his whistle for the last time, marking an end to a career that spanned two decades and took him across the continent on international duties. Zindove has been one of the remaining experienced officials on the domestic game following the exodus of such top referees as Felix Tangawarima, Wilfred Mukuna, Gladmore Muzambi, Brighton Mudzamiri, Kenny Marange, Kenny Sigoba and Thabani Mkantjo due to retirement.
But time has caught up with the soft spoken official who, in his later years, specialised as an assistant referee often manning the touchline at Rufaro, Gwanzura Barbourfields, Ascot, Sakubva and the National Sports Stadium.
Zindove, who was born in Kadoma and started his refereeing career in the same mining town, will turn 46 on March 29 and revealed that he had now set his sights on being a match assessor and will write his examinations for that new challenge this weekend. That should set the platform for him to stay in the game and launch a new chapter as a match commissioner.
Zindove yesterday spoke about his career and reckoned that although he might not have featured at the Fifa Confederations Cup like Tangawarima or the World Cup as did Mudzamiri, he had done his part to fly the national flag and also uplift the game in the country.
"I was inspired to take up refereeing by top referees like Gladmore Muzambi, Felix Tangawarima, Kenny Sigoba, Brighton Mudzamiri, and Wilfred Mukuna and internationally by the great Italian referee Pierluigi Collina.
"During my career I had the privilege of officiating in games featuring some of the great African players such as Peter Ndlovu, Benjani Mwaruwari, Nwanko Kanu, Flavio, Mohamed Aboutrika, Benny McCarthy, Christopher Katongo and Obafemi Martins.
"I also had the opportunity to interact with great personalities both in sport and politics and these include Kalusha Bwalya, Nelson Mandela and the late Vice President Joseph Msika.
"The late Vice President Msika would always crack a joke whenever we were introduced to him as a guest of honour at our matches," Zindove.
Zindove tried his luck at playing football and went as far the Mashonaland West Division Two league where he played against such a host of players who included Kaitano Tembo, Norman Komani, Herbert Dick and Stephen Shamuyarira. While Tembo, Komani, Dick and Shamuyarira blossomed and became household names in the local Premiership, with the former later progressing to SuperSport United in South Africa where he is now the assistant coach, Zindove diverted into refereeing.
That refereeing journey started one Sunday morning in Kadoma.
"It was a spontaneous decision... I was watching an Area Zone match in Kadoma on a Sunday morning around 10am in 1992.
"During half time I saw a local referee by the name of Huni walking in front of where I was seated and at the spur of the moment I asked him what it took to become a referee.
"Twenty four hours later I enrolled to be a trainee referee and in that same year I qualified as a Class Four referee and the rest as they say is history. It was not until 1999 when I was promoted to become a Zifa Class One referee but I also learnt that the committee then led by Anthony Mandiwanza wanted me to become a Fifa referee but there was no vacancy on that panel expect for an assistant referee".
Zindove, whose first domestic Premiership assignment was the game between the now defunct pair of Mhangura and Arcadia United, arrived in 1999 in which he ran he line with Mukuna the man at the centre.
"During that game Mukuna's advice was that I should not panic but concentrate throughout. I also had had good memories of the high level of discipline exhibited by Mhangura's John Phiri and Gerald Phiri.
"But I rank Desmond Maringwa of Dynamos as the most disciplined player I came across in the last decade and closely followed by another gentleman of the game Norman Maroto".
After making it onto the Fifa panel at the start of 2002, Zindove was handed his first international assignment that same year - a Champions League mach between a team from Madascar and Petro Atletico of Angola.
"Petro Atletico lost that match in Luanda on penalties after Flavio had scored an equaliser to make it 1-1. Fans found it hard to believe they had lost against a small team at home and it was a sorry sight as we trooped back to the dressing rooms. But my best international match was a World Cup qualifier between Benin and Sudan in 2009 and Kenny Marange handled the match while Cosmas Chafa and I were the assistants.
"Benin won 1-0 in a very exciting mach that attracted a colourful crowd," Zindove said.
As he embarks on a new challenge of being a match assessor, Zindove, a fitness fanatic, emphasised on the need for referees to be in good physical shape always.
"I must point out that I have a passion for physical training, maybe this is the reason that I did not fail a single fitness test in my refereeing career.
"Some of my former colleagues on the Fifa panel were forced to retire because of failure to pass fitness tests.
"Poor decisions on the field are linked to low fitness levels and if you look closely, at Howard Webb, he has impressive fitness levels and that is probably why he is always assigned to the tough games in the English Premiership. I hope to be working with the young and upcoming referees and encourage them in the same way I was also encouraged.
"Local derbies are very executing to not only supporters but even the referees but these games like Dynamos vs CAPS United or Shabanie vs FC Platinum do not need referees who are past their sale by dates," Zindove said.